7-year-old girl gets new hand from 3-D printer Faith Lennox, 7, left, shows her mother Nicole her newly 3-D printed hand at the Build it Workspace in Los Alamitos, California (AP photos)
7-year-old girl gets new hand from 3-D printer
Lexile

Seven-year-old Faith Lennox never thought much about putting an artificial, or prosthetic, limb where her missing left hand had once been.

Not until the little girl learned she could design her own. And that she could strap it on easily. Then she could jump on her bike and pedal away.

With family members occasionally shouting "Be careful" and "Watch out for that car," Faith firmly placed her new hand's bright blue and pink fingers on her bike's left handlebar. Then she took off. She rode around the Build It Workspace. Just a short time before, that hand had rolled off a 3-D printer. It was built overnight.

"I don't think we'll ever get her off it," said her mother, Nicole. She was smiling as she watched her daughter continue to circle the parking lot in Los Alamitos. It is a suburb in Orange County, California.

The prosthetic that had just made such a task immediately easy represents a breakthrough in small, lightweight hands. They are easy for children to use. It weighs only a pound. And it costs just $50 to construct. It is made out of the same materials used to make drones and automobile parts.

When Faith outgrows it in six months or a year, a replacement can be made just as cheaply and easily. That's according to Mark Muller, a prosthetics professor at California State University, Dominguez Hills. He helped with the design. He said a heavier adult model with sensors attached to a person's muscles would run $15,000 to $20,000.

Faith manipulates her hand without sensors. Instead, as she demonstrated, she moves her upper arm back and forth.

That in turn opens and closes its blue and pink fingers. "My favorite colors," she noted with a smile. She uses the fingers to grasp objects. One was the plush toy she brought with her.

Faith is the oldest of three children. She had compartment syndrome when her position during childbirth cut off the flow of blood to her left forearm. The issue damaged tissue, muscle and bone. After nine months of trying to save the limb, doctors determined they had to amputate just below the elbow.

She had tried a couple more traditional prosthetics over the year. She found them bulky, heavy and hard to use. They were more expensive, too.

Her parents were working with the nonprofit group E-Nable to get her a 3-D-printed hand. But the technology is new. So there's a waiting list, her mother said. Then she learned from a friend of what Build It Workspace could do. His son had visited with his Scout troop. The small studio teaches people to use high-tech printers. It provides access to them for projects and does its own commercial printing.

The company was founded less than a year ago by mechanical engineer Mark Lengsfeld. The firm has printed out everything from pumps for oil and gas companies to parts for unmanned aerial vehicles. But this was the first hand Lengsfeld and his employees had built.

So he used E-Nable's open-source technology. And he called in Cal State, Dominguez Hills' experts for guidance.

When Faith quickly strapped on their new creation and headed out to ride, Lengsfeld admitted he was nervous. After being up all night finishing the hand, he wanted to test it himself to be sure it worked.

"But she did fine with it," he said, chuckling.

She noted it did fine by her as well.

"I didn't have to lean so much," she said of the difficulty of navigating and steering a bike with just one hand.

Afterward, as onlookers crowded into Build It's small studio, the little girl sat shyly in front of a huge poster. "Hand It To Faith," it read. Lengsfeld had made it for her.

But when asked to demonstrate how she can use the hand to help with things like schoolwork, she got busy. She placed her new hand firmly on a piece of paper. The hand held it in place as she drew a picture.

And just what did she draw?

Her new hand of course. She drew it complete with robot fingers in perfect detail.

Critical thinking challenge: Name three advantages of the 3-D printed hand over conventional prosthetics

Assigned 68 times


COMMENTS (24)
  • cassidyje-Mag
    4/07/2015 - 12:27 p.m.

    Wow I never thought that it would only cost 50 dollars. I think that Faith was really happy. I think that it would be amazing, I wish I could have been there to see it happen. Was it painful? How happy did you feel? I really liked the story the summery is: a little girl faith was born without a left hand and then a 3D printer came and changed everything. Now she is a happy little girl. I loved the story so much!

  • Tiffany0307-yyca
    4/07/2015 - 07:00 p.m.

    Well, Mark Lengsfeld is a true miracle worker who helped save Faith. Faith must have been really excited with her new arm. I think that I would be both excited and embarrassed at the same time if I had that kind of arm. I would be excited because then I would do all my activities and hobbies in a different way by using the arm. I would also be embarrassed because there might be some people that might make fun of the arm. But I am relieved that Faith got the 3-d arm. I think that instead of complaining about a 3-d arm, you should be happy if you have one and at least it's better than dying.

  • Meganp-Cla
    4/08/2015 - 09:35 p.m.

    i really enjoyed this story because of all the helping and kindness people do to people or to themselves.This is really cool that the girl Faith had got her arm back and it was $50. Also the arm could do all the thing normal hands can do like draw, ride a bike,and other thing too. This material can help other people with dreams that they want or with their body because somethings you need two hands and if you have one you can get this and you will be able to do everything almost .

  • MarisaG-Kut
    4/09/2015 - 05:54 p.m.

    Well the 3 advantages of having a 3-D printed hand over conventional prosthetics are (1) you'll be able to write with your left robot hand even though you write with your right hand. (2) it can be any color you want it to be. (3) you cant feel pain.

  • NatashaM-Cla
    4/13/2015 - 12:09 p.m.

    I bet she was excided when she put it on.I bet that she wheres it every day.

  • EthanS21-Cla
    4/13/2015 - 12:11 p.m.

    Very amasing that is so cool. Hopps she has fun and plase on thate bike of hers.

  • astjohn
    4/14/2015 - 10:29 a.m.

    what in the world did she do to have no hand

  • sarah009
    4/16/2015 - 12:14 p.m.

    I love that this little girl finally got an arm after years. I think the 3D printer idea is great because you can just do it over night! Also, it only costs $50 to make an arm. I hope they continue to make these prosthetics for everyone else so they can feel like she did. Now, Faith can ride her bike all the time.

  • CooperT-Sua
    4/27/2015 - 08:45 p.m.

    The 3-D printed hand is quicker and easier to make. It has a light weight, its cheaper to make, and made out of drones and automobile parts. It can be made for a little girl (like Faith.). Also you can make more things then a mechanical hand!

  • DosanjhN-Sua
    4/27/2015 - 08:50 p.m.

    The three advantages of the 3-D printed hand over conventional is like with robot fingers in perfect detail .

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